The EPA has placed its top children’s health official on leave

With little explanation as to why, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency put Ruth Etzel, the woman in charge of protecting kids from environmental dangers, on administrative leave Tuesday—an attempt, some say, to weaken her department. Originally created by President Clinton in 1997, the Office of Children’s Health Protection addresses the heightened vulnerabilities children, babies, and fetuses have to toxic substances such as lead in drinking water and pesticides on fruits and vegetables. The New York Times reports that the agency asked Etzel—a highly respected pediatrician and expert on the impacts of toxic chemicals on children—for her keys, cell phone, and badge before placing her on leave, what one former EPA counsel calls a "highly unusual" decision. In a statement regarding Etzel, the agency does not explain the reasoning behind Etzel's removal but says “children’s health is and always has been a top priority.” Well, the EPA has a funny way of showing it. In another move yesterday, the agency questioned a court order to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide known to cause neurological damage in children, by requesting a full rehearing of the decision. 


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